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The riding life

Sally Batton does what she loves as Director of Dartmouth's Morton Farm

Eight riders circle the arena at a trot, alternately peeling off the rail to canter over jumps.  It is a lot of speed and activity for a small space, but Sally Batton, Director of the Dartmouth Riding Center at Morton Farm and Equestrian Team Coach, isn't fazed. With practiced accuracy, she directs the action: "Good Kate, one more time - Everyone drop your stirrups! - Look up, look up! - OK, Daisy, let him walk."

Sally Batton
Sally Batton with Cal, a Morton Farm boarder owned by Zoe Wybourne, daughter of Professor of Physics and Astronomy Martin Wybourne. (photo by Sarah Metz)

The arena is Batton's classroom, and she is preparing Dartmouth riders for an important final - the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association's (IHSA) Zone 1 Team Championship.

On Mar. 13, the Dartmouth equestrian team won the IHSA Regional Championship, which came with a ticket to the Zone Championship, and Batton could not be more pleased.  "It seems a little unreal, it's hard to believe we are really here," she said. 

Batton has been directing Morton Farm, donated to the College in 1979 by William Morton '32, since 1990. "I always knew I wanted to teach-a lot of people get into this industry because they want to be professional riders, but I always wanted to teach riding," she said. 

"Sally is a great coach," said equestrian team member Abigail Donahue '06.  "She is able to address each rider's weaknesses, while still commanding a ring full of students and horses."

Batton has improved the facilities and grown the programs at Morton Farm.  In addition to the equestrian team, the farm offers horsemanship clinics, horse boarding, the Challenge Program for mentally challenged riders, the Tiny Riders program, 12 summer horse shows, polocrosse, foxchasing and, of course, riding lessons-lots of them. Every week, 50-100 Dartmouth students and 50-60 community members take lessons at Morton Farm.

Riding is now available to more Dartmouth students than ever, thanks to the Helen Naylor Equestrian Fund.  Established in Oct. 2004 by Helen Naylor, widow of George Naylor '29, it provides assistance to Dartmouth students for whom riding lessons are cost-prohibitive.  Naylor met Batton through the North Country Hounds foxchasing club.  Confident that he would be in good hands, she donated her former foxchasing mount Maestro to Morton Farm, where he quickly became a favorite. Naylor described the equestrian fund as "a giveback-for me, my horse and my late husband.  I intend to do it as long as I live, maybe even longer."

Batton's responsibilities extend beyond the barn aisles.  She is the mother of three children and National Steward of the IHSA (a position she describes as "Keeper of the Rules").  She is also the author of Polocrosse: Australian Made, Internationally Played (1990), the first book published on the sport of polocrosse, a fast-paced combination of polo and lacrosse.

"This career has given me incredible opportunities," she said. "I am teaching on a college level and have gone around the world because of this. Plus, I get to work outdoors. Sometimes, when I am guiding community riders on a trail ride, taking in the view at the top of a mountain,  I will stop, turn around and say, 'You guys, this is my job.'"

By SARAH BENELLI

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Last Updated: 12/17/08